Study Finds Genes behind Asthma, Allergic Reactions
New research has shed light on over 30 genes that could influence asthma and other allergic reactions. These genes affect the activity of white blood cells called eosinophils, immune cells which trigger inflammation in the airways.
30 percent of Europeans and North Americans have allergies; 10 percent of children have asthma. The antibody immunoglobin is responsible for most allergic reactions.
The researchers focused on epigenetic changes to DNA. Epigenetic changes do not affect the basic sequencing of the genome; however, they are passed on by cells as they divide and create specific cell types and tissues.
“In our study, we have shown that certain epigenomic modifications contribute to atopic diseases such as allergy and asthma,” said study co-leader Dr. Mark Lathrop. “This new knowledge points the way to multiple novel molecular pathways that can be explored for their usefulness as therapeutic targets.”
The scientists looked for methyl molecules attached to the DNA chain as a means of measuring epigenetic alterations. They examined whether the methyl hotspots on the DNA chain correlated to higher levels of immunoglobin in patients with asthma than in patients without asthma. Such correlations were confirmed at 36 places in 34 genes. Many of these genes locate in eosinophil cells.
There are treatments to mitigate eosinophil reactions, but they are costly and sometimes ineffective. The genes that the study linked to asthma reactions could be a target for future asthma therapies.
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